Team “Here There Be Monsters” Homework — Backstory, Showing, Rhetoricals, and Thoughts

This is the homework assignment I have sent to my mentees.

Today’s topics are:

– Backstory

– Showing, not telling

– Cutting rhetorical questions

– Getting rid of unnecessary thoughts (particularly of the italicized variety)

1) First, read the two blog posts below

2) Apply them to your MS’s like your life depends on it!

http://blog.janicehardy.com/2013/09/baby-got-backstory.html

http://kidlit.com/2013/08/06/dont-ask-dont-tell/

These are two of my FAVORITE “show, don’t tell” articles. The kidlit one actually prompted a revision that cut several thousand (9000 approx) words.

3) Next, go through your ENTIRE MS and get rid of at least 90% of your rhetorical questions in the text. Turn them into declaratives or cut them altogether. For example:

Before: He looked back at the sky. How had they been found? This is the third time…

After: He looked back at the sky in disbelief. Somehow they’d been found. Again.

4) Weed out unnecessary, italicized thoughts, like the one above. Agents will KILL YOU on this one. Trust me. Show what they’re thinking with gestures, with expressions, heck, even with dialogue! Or just put it straight into the text. Don’t get rid of ALL of them, though. A well-placed direct thought can be SO powerful! But use too many of them, and they become inconsequential parts of the text. Nothing special. DON’T ROB THEM OF THEIR MAGIC BY OVERUSING THEM! (This goes for the rhetorical questions, too.)

If you have further questions on these topics, find me on Twitter or leave a comment. 

3 thoughts on “Team “Here There Be Monsters” Homework — Backstory, Showing, Rhetoricals, and Thoughts

    1. If you are using direct communication thoughts in the place of dialogue, that’s perfectly fine. I’m talking about thoughts that the characters think to themselves.

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